A day after recovering from his injuries, Precious Achiuwa missed a few alley-oops Scottie Barnes had thrown his way.
At 12 minutes, Achiuwa scored 11 points and recorded three blocks as the Toronto Raptors lost 122-114 in Indiana. It was his first game following a missing 24 due to torn ankle ligaments, and his comeback is one of Toronto’s few encouraging signs during a trying time.
“But those alley-oops, he chuckled, had him in good shape.”
“The first one was excellent. He might have just handed me the second one,” Achiuwa claimed on Tuesday. “It’s not okay for me to jump out here like this. I recently returned after more than 20 games.”
Regarding his first shift, he continued, “I was pretty exhausted. “It was absurd. I was so exhausted that I was unable even to hydrate. I thought I was going to faint. I felt better after that.
With the Raptors mired in a rut of just three victories in 10 games, Achiuwa’s return couldn’t have come at a better time. On Wednesday, they host Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks to begin a six-game homestand, and they hope to see the same kind of turnaround as they did last year.
Four of the five victories the Raptors had in the first five games of 2022 came at Scotiabank Arena. In the four victories at home, guard Fred VanVleet scored 32 points or more. They started the month 15-17 and finished January at 25-23, proving that the run represented a turn of events from last season.
Pascal Siakam responded, “For sure,” when asked how important the upcoming homestand would be. “Each game has been significant. Every time we play a game, it feels like we’re reaching the point where we want to close the book and seize the opportunity.
“I believe that is the issue with the league. You have opportunities, and there are games where you can play poorly and return the following day to play. What are you planning to do, for instance?”
The Raptors’ loss on Monday caused them to drop to 16–21 and 12th in the Eastern Conference.
The Raptors then host the New York Knicks, Portland Trail Blazers, Charlotte Hornets twice, and Atlanta Hawks after the Bucks. All three teams—the Bucks, Knicks, and Blazers—are above.500.
“In front of our home audience, I believe this is a wonderful opportunity,” Siakam stated. “All I want is for us to stay together. I’m hoping the enthusiasm level among the players is high and the atmosphere in the arena is fantastic. This stretch is significant.
Achiuwa, who averaged a career-high 8.3 points and 6.5 rebounds this season, was questioned about what he saw while recuperating on the bench for Toronto during their slump.
“We need to tighten up our defense,” he remarked. “It will be complicated to defeat us if we play defense the way we know how to play defense. On Monday, there were only a few isolated defensive blunders. These are the things I observed while I was outside.”
“If we were to correct the minor defensive errors we’re committing, that would be helpful. It would be excellent, excellent.”